Map of Indiana

Indiana was originally part of the Northwest Territory, established under the Ordinance of 1787. In the earliest stage of the Northwest Territory, most of the European Americans in what would become Indiana were the French inhabitants of Vincennes, and they were ruled by a governor, Arthur St. Clair; a secretary; and three judges, all appointed by the president with the consent of the Senate. The governor and judges had the power to pass all necessary laws by adopting laws from the already established states; the governor also had the power to appoint all civil officers at the county level. In 1798 the Northwest Territory entered into its second stage, permitting the establishment of a bicameral General Assembly, which, meeting in joint session, would select a nonvoting delegate to the U.S. Congress. One half of the General Assembly was a House of Representatives, made up of men who were elected for two-year terms by all free men over twenty-one holding fifty or more acres of land. The second half was a Legislative Council, whose membership was selected as follows: The House would draw up a list of ten candidates, from whom the resident would select five. In this second stage, the governor retained the right to select county officials, but the General Assembly defined the powers of these offices. For most of modern Indiana, this second stage of self-government was short-lived; in 1800, the Indiana Territory, which included present-day Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, and the western half of Michigan, most of the state was split from the Northwest Territory. Because few European Americans lived in this new territory, it was organized once again without representative government, with William Henry Harrison appointed governor (1800–1813) and governing much as the Northwest Territory had been governed in its first stage. In 1803 the state of Ohio was formed from the Northwest Territory, and a small "gore" east of the Greenville Treaty line was added to Indiana Territory, together with the eastern half of present-day Michigan.

The 1800 act establishing Indiana Territory provided for the residents of Indiana to move to the second stage of territorial government without regard to population, if the move was the will of the people. In 1804, in an election in which only 400 hundred votes were cast, Indiana residents signaled their desire to move into the second stage, and in 1805, Governor Harrison set into motion the creation of a General Assembly with seven members in the House of Representatives. In the midst of moving to the second stage, Michigan was established as a separate territory by Congress in 1805. In accommodating the desires of European American residents, Harrison showed greater wisdom than Arthur St. Clair, who had attempted to slow the progression of the Northwest Territory into statehood until two Federalist states could be created. Harrison, though initially appointed by Federalist Adams, won the favor of Jeffersonian Republicans and was reappointed by both Jefferson and Madison. Despite his ability to navigate national politics, Harrison was unable to avoid the distrust of his executive power that lay at the heart of the earlier conflicts with St. Clair; much of this suspicion revolved around the issue of the introduction of slavery into the territory. Even before Harrison's arrival in Indiana, some in the territory had sought to repeal the Ordinance of 1787's ban on slavery in the territory, and Harrison allied himself with the effort to repeal. Congress was deaf to these petitions, but in both the first and the second stage, Harrison and his allies passed laws that introduced African American servitude. As the territory became more settled, a regional split appeared; those living in southeastern and south central Indiana tended to oppose slavery, whereas those living in the Wabash Valley and the Illinois country tended to support slavery. Eventually, the supporters of slavery themselves were split: Illinois country supporters believed that being a separate territory, and ultimately a separate state, would best bring slavery to their communities. Thus Harrison and his Wabash Valley allies were left in a minority in Indiana Territory when Illinois Territory was created in 1809, leaving Indiana with approximately its modern boundaries, plus a segment of the Upper Peninsula of modern Michigan. The easterner-versus-westerner split in Indiana politics would remain evident for some time.

Indianans repeatedly petitioned the U.S. Congress for a more democratic territorial government. In 1808 Congress extended the suffrage to those owning town lots and those in the act of purchasing public lands, but the act specifically excluded nonwhites. In 1809 Congress provided for the direct election of the Legislative Council and of the nonvoting delegate to the Congress. In 1811 Congress further extended the suffrage to all white men over twenty-one who had paid a local tax and who had resided in the territory for one year. In 1811 the territorial General Assembly changed the method of voting from viva voce to ballot. About this time, Harrison, who had been accused abusing his power over local officials, acceded to popular will and began holding extralegal elections for sheriff when vacancies occurred, appointing the winners. Harrison resigned in the midst of the War of 1812, and Madison appointed Thomas Posey governor (1813–1816); Virginian Posey reassured Indianans that he opposed slavery. The forces that had opposed slavery in Indiana Territory had already begun to drive toward statehood, coalescing behind congressional delegate (1809–1816) Jonathan Jennings. As early as 1811, Indiana petitioned to become a state, which in the minds of many residents would assure them of their full rights as citizens of a democratic republic.

In 1816 Congress authorized Indiana to write a state constitution. Responding to the belief that the territorial governors exercised excessive powers, the framers of this constitution provided for a weak governor, one whose vetoes could be overridden by a simple majority in both houses of the state legislature, which was a General Assembly composed of a Senate, one-third of whose members were elected each year, and a House of Representatives, whose members were elected annually. The governor was also elected for a three-year term, and there was a separate elected office of lieutenant governor. The other executive officers (secretary of state, auditor, and treasurer and the presiding judges of the circuit courts were elected by joint ballot of both houses of the legislature. The governor did appoint, with the consent of the Senate, the three justices on the state supreme court. County officials, including the associate judges for each county, were popularly elected. The suffrage was further extended to all white men over twenty-one who had lived in the state for one year, and all voting was to take place by ballot. (The state constitution gave the 1821 legislature the one-time option of changing the voting to viva voce; that option was not exercised.)

Rewarded for his shepherding in Congress of Indiana's democratic desires, Jonathan Jennings was elected the new state's first governor. By his second term, concerns about his improper exercise of executive power began to coalesce. Jennings was closely allied with the State Bank created in 1816, and concerns over its failure in the wake of the Panic of 1819 raised concerns about Jennings as well. He nevertheless was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1822, taking the place of Williams Hendricks, who had resigned the congressional seat to become governor (1822–1825). Jennings was concurrently elected to one of the three new congressional seats established after the 1820 census redistricting. This horse-trading of offices, combined with the bank’s failure and the use of patronage by both Hendricks and Jennings, stirred dissatisfaction among an unorganized cohort of Indiana voters. Such dissatisfaction began to coalesce around the presidential candidacy of Andrew Jackson, and in 1824, the voters in Indiana had their first opportunity to vote for presidential electors (the legislature had picked Indiana's Monroe electors in 1816 and 1824), and Jackson captured 47 percent of the vote. Despite supporting either Clay or Adams, men such as Jennings, Hendricks, and James Noble (U.S. Senator, 1816–1831) retained sufficient popular appeal because of their role in leading Indiana to statehood.


  • Barnhart, John D. and Dorothy Riker. Indiana to 1816: The Colonial Period. Volume 1 of The History of Indiana. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1971.
  • Carmony, Donald F. Indiana, 1816–1850: The Pioneer Era. Volume 2 of The History of Indiana. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau and Indiana Historical Society, 1998.
  • Mills, Randy Keith. Jonathan Jennings: Indiana's First Governor. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 2005.
  • "Indiana Documents Leading to Statehood." Indiana Historical Bureau.
  • "Road to Indiana Statehood." The Digital Collections of IUPUI Library.
  • Nation, Richard F. At Home in the Hoosier Hills: Agriculture, Politics, and Religion in Southern Indiana, 1810–1870. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.


What is today referred to as the Democratic Republican Party did not exist as such under that name.

"The party name which the Jeffersonians used most commonly in self-designation was Republican. Since nearly all Americans professed to be supporters of a republic, Federalists were reluctant to allow their opponents the advantage of this name, preferring to label them as Antifederalists, Jacobins, disorganizers, or, at best, Democrats." (Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., History of U.S. Political Parties Volume I: 1789-1860: From Factions to Parties. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed. New York, 1973, Chelsea House Publisher. p. 240.)

"No precise date can be given for the establishment of the Republican party, for it did not spring suddenly into being, and even those leaders most intimately involved in its formation were not fully aware of what they were creating. The beginnings of what in course of time became the Republican party can be found in the Second Congress in the congressional faction that contemporaries referred to as the 'republican interest.' . . . An examination of roll calls during the Second Congress indicates that a voting bloc was forming around Madison in opposition to another bloc that united in support of Hamilton's program. While only about half of the membership of the House could be identified with one or the other of these factions, two such groups had not been observable in the First Congress." (Cunningham, p. 241)

"As members of Congress defended their legislative records and sought reelection, they took to the electorate the issues and the disputes that had divided Congress, and they tended in their campaigns for reelection to impart to the voters something of the partisanship that was developing in Congress. Thus, the party divisions in Congress filtered down to the voters through the electoral process, and voters came to align along the lines that divisions in Congress had marked out. In this process the congressional factions acquired the mass followings in the county necessary to transform them from capital factions into national political parties." (Cunningham, p. 244)

Though Thomas Jefferson was seen as the primary leader of the emerging Republican Party, his retirement in 1793 would force that mantle back upon James Madison. "Contemporaries referred to 'Madison's party,' and, when Jefferson was put forward for the presidency in 1796, he was recognized as the candidate of Madison's party. Adams's supporters warned that 'the measures of Madison and Gallatin will be the measures of the executive' if Jefferson were elected. Under Madison's leadership, the Republican party in Congress moved from a role characterized largely by opposition to administration measures, mostly Hamiltonian inspired, to one of offering policy alternatives and proposing Republican programs." (Cunningham, p. 246)

"As the country became dangerously polarized, the Federalists, in 1798 with the passage of the Alien and Sedition Laws, used the full power of the government in an effort to destroy their opponents, whom they saw as subversive. The Republicans, forced to do battle for their very survival, were compelled to change their strategy radically. Prior to 1798 they had optimistically believed that the people would repudiate leaders who supported antirepublican measures hostile to the general good of society. By 1798, however, the Federalists' electoral successes and their hold on the federal government seemed to belie that belief. Therefore, the Republicans shifted their focus of attention from the national to the state level. And by emphasizing a more overtly, self-consciously sectional, political enclave strategy, they left the clear implication that state secession and the breakup of the union might follow if the federal government refused to modify its policies and actions to make them more acceptable to opponents, especially Southerners." (American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis. James Roger Sharp. New Haven, 1993, Yale University Press. p. 12)

"On the national level, Republican members of Congress through their informal associations in the national capital formed the basic national party structure. Many of them lodged together in boarding houses or dined together in small groups where there were ample opportunities to plot party tactics. They kept in close touch with political leaders and party organizations in their home states. In 1800, Republican members introduced what was to become the most important element of national party machinery and the most powerful device for the maintenance of congressional influence of the leadership of the party: the congressional nominating caucus." (Cunningham, p. 252)

"The coming to power of the Jeffersonians in 1801 marked the beginning of the Republican era that saw the presidency passed from Jefferson to Madison to Monroe. When the Virginia dynasty came to an end in 1825, the presidential office went to a former Federalist who had become a Republican while Jefferson was president. But, although John Quincy Adams was a Republican, the presidential election of 1824 shattered the Republican party and destroyed the congressional nominating caucus which had given direction to the party's national structure since 1800. Adams's presidency was a period of restructuring of parties - a transitional period from the first party system of the Federalists and the Jeffersonians to the second party system of the age of Jackson." (Cunningham, p. 258-259).

"During the period from its rise in the 1790's to its breakup in the 1820's, the Jeffersonian Republican party made contributions of major significance to the development of the american political system. It demonstrated that a political party could be successfully organized in opposition to an administration in power in the national government, win control over that government, and produce orderly changes through the party process. In challenging the Federalist power, Republicans were innovative in building party machinery, organizing poltical campaigns, employing a party press, and devising campaign techniques to stimulate voter interest in elections and support of republican candidates at the polls. In the process, it became acceptable for candidates to campaign for office and for their partisans to organize campaign committees, distribute campaign literature, see that voters get to the polls, and adopt other practices which, though subsequently familiar features of american political campaigns, previously had been widely regarded with suspicion and distrust. Many of the methods of campaigning and the techniques of party organization, introduced by the Jeffersonian Republicans, while falling into disuse by the end of the Republican era, would be revived by the Jacksonians. In taking office in 1801, the Jeffersonians led the nation through the first transfer of political power in the national government from one party to another; and Jefferson demonstrated that the president could be both the head of his party and the leader of the nation." (Cunningham, p. 271)

Additional Sources:

  • History of U.S. Political Parties Volume I: 1789-1860: From Factions to Parties. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed. New York, 1973, Chelsea House Publisher.
  • American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis. James Roger Sharp. New Haven, 1993, Yale University Press.
  • Partisanship and the Birth of America's Second Party, 1796-1800: "Stop the Wheels of Government". Matthew Q. Dawson. Westwood, CT, 2000, Greenwood Press.
  • Party of the People: A History of the Democrats. Jules Witcover. New York, 2003, Random House

Beginning in 1799, many Federalist papers began to refer to the Republican Party as Democrats or the Democratic Party. This continued throughout the first quarter of the 18th Century until what is currently known as the Democratic Party emerged among the followers of Andrew Jackson in the 1828 Presidential Election.

Republicans were also called by a variety of different terms in various newspapers throughout the period:


Though the Anti-Federalists were not quite the exact same group as the Republicans as they would develop after 1792, there were still some of those who referred to them as such. The term was used by the following newspapers in the following elections:

  • Porcupine's Gazette (Philadelphia). October 22, 1798. Pennsylvania 1798 Assembly, Chester County.
  • Virginia Gazette (Richmond). April 30, 1799. Virginia 1799 House of Delegates, New Kent County.
  • The Virginia Federalist (Richmond). April 26, 1800. Virginia 1800 House of Delegates, Norfolk County.
  • Virginia Gazette (Richmond). May 12, 1802. Virginia 1802 House of Delegates, Bedford County.
  • Virginia Gazette (Richmond). May 12, 1802. Virginia 1802 House of Delegates, Pittsylvania County.
  • The Salem Gazette. May 17, 1805. Massachusetts 1805 House of Representatives, Salem.

Democratic Republican:

Though the term is commonly used today to distinguish the Jeffersonian Republicans from the later Republican Party and because so many of those among the Jeffersonian Republicans eventually became Jacksonian Democrats, this term was extremely rare during the actual period. It was used by the Readinger Adler in the October 27, 1818 edition recording the 1818 county elections in Pennsylvania.

French / War / Warhawk / Jacobin:

Starting in 1798, various Federalist newspapers would refer to Republicans as Jacobins. ("In Newbern district the contest lay between two federalists -- No Jacobin had the effrontery to offer himself." United States Gazette. September 1, 1798.) These references continued through until at least 1810. ("From the Cooperstown Federalist: The election in this County has terminated in favor of the Jacobin Ticket for Assembly. An important revolution has been effected by the most shameful artifices. Never before were the jacobin ranks so completely formed and thoroughly drilled for action. We hope next week to be able to lay before our readers a correct statement of votes, and to exhibit to the world a picture of depravity in the conduct of some of the inspectors of the election which has no parallel." The American (Herkimer). May 3, 1810.)

Beginning in 1810, the Newburyport Herald (MA), began referring to Republicans as the French Party (as opposed to the "American" Party, who were Federalists). This continued in the 1811 elections.

Beginning in 1812 ("In laying before our readers the above Canvass of this county, a few remarks become necessary, to refute the Assertion of the war party, that the Friends of Peace are decreasing in this country." Northern Whig (Hudson). May 11, 1812.) and continuing through 1813 and 1814 a number of newspapers were referring to the Republicans as the War Party (or Warhawk Party, as the Merrimack Intelligencer (Haverhill) of March 19, 1814 used) due to their support of the Madison administration and the War of 1812 (most of these same papers referred to the Federalists as the Peace Party). These newspapers include the Trenton Federalist, the Columbian Centinel (Boston), the Northern Whig (Hudson), the Independent American (Ballston Spa), the Broome County Patriot (Chenango Point), the New York Spectator, the Commercial Advertiser (New York), the New York Evening Post, the Albany Gazette, the Political and Commercial Register (Philadelphia), the Merrimack Intelligencer (Haverhill), The Federal Republican (New Bern), the Freeman's Journal (Philadelphia), Alexandria Gazette, Poulson's, Middlesex Gazette (Middletown), the Raleigh Minerva and The Star (Raleigh).

Jackson / Jacksonian:

With the Presidential election of 1824 split among four candidates who were, ostensibly, members of the same political party, the divisions among the Republican Party began to be apparent.

The phrase "Jackson" or "Jacksonian" candidate was used in nearly every state election in Georgia in 1824 to distinguish between those were were supporters of Andrew Jackson as opposed to the supporters of William H. Crawford. The Maryland Republican (Annapolis) and the Federal Gazette (Baltimore) used the term "Jacksonian" in the Cecil County elections of 1824 (as opposed to "Adamite" or "Crawfordite") and the Allegheny and Butler county election in Pennsylvania in 1824.


The New Hampshire Gazette of March 5, 1816 would refer to the Republican ticket as the Whig Ticket and as being in favor of Peace and Commerce.